Women -- society has often told them what to be, where they belong, and what they can and cannot do or say. Today, labor force participation by women is at 58% and a mere 10% of those women are working in the data center industry. While the number of women in the industry is increasing, it’s moving at a snail’s pace. It raises the questions: Why aren’t more women in the industry? Why does it matter? And what can they do to succeed, contribute, and advance once they arrive?
Where the Roadblocks Begin
The data center industry is surging in growth, with its market size valued at 215.8 billion USD in 2021 and expected to rise to 288.3 billion USD by 2027, as reported by Aritzon’s recent market research report. In contrast, Uptime Institute found that one in four data center operators don’t have women as part of their design, build, and operations staff. Uptime Institute also reports that the proportion of women working in the data center industry increased by 30% in 2021, showing that women are interested in the field.
Furthermore, initiatives to bring women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions are receiving more attention, with programs and companies created to support the cause.
However, 32% of women surveyed in Skillsoft’s Women in Tech report said there isn’t sufficient training in the industry. So, once they’re in the space, training, development, and support are reported to be lacking.
Are companies that have and believe in their diversity and inclusion missions sufficiently supporting their staff with the right people, resources, and opportunities? What will it take to create and foster more opportunities and progress?
- Providing equitable access and opportunity is one way. By creating an environment (or atmosphere) where everyone can learn and advance within their careers, no matter their gender, position, tenure, etc., you can create a place for growth, innovation, creativity, and long-term success. In a Capital One Women In Technology survey, the majority of women said training was a critical factor to their success in the tech industry.
- “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” Mentors, managers, leaders -- call them what you will -- can establish the right support systems that make huge differences in anyone’s career trajectory. The Capital One survey found that 44% of women who didn’t have a role model within their company chose to leave their position in tech.
- Enable and bring in resources to nurture the women already in the organization, as well as those just joining. The goal shouldn’t be solely focused on benefiting a single employee for your company but the industry at large. Women bring new, important perspectives to the table, and resources such as tools, platforms, and processes should be available to support and cultivate those viewpoints.
Equality in the workplace isn’t just about the ratio of men to women. It’s about whether women feel included and supported vs. stereotyped, judged, or undermined. So while there are things that must be done from an industry and company perspective, there are also things that women can do to help themselves excel in an industry that needs them.
Standing Out in the Crowd
1. Speak up
Often, women have been taught to feel underqualified, not knowing how to articulate their strengths. In fact, LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report revealed that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men.
Believe that your voice is worthy of being heard because it is. While it’s clear that today the industry is dominated by men, that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t needed or welcomed. If you want something and if you have an idea, opinion, or issue, speak up! Don’t be afraid to take risks.
2. Stand out
You know how the old saying goes: “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” While that isn’t the entire truth, it is true that women bring different value propositions to their work and to the company. Research has shown that diversity in the workplace matters. So much so that a previous study conducted in Spain found that companies that employed more women produced highly innovative ideas and introduced them to the marketplace within two years.
3. Lean in
You’re a leader if you act like you’re a leader and embody one (titles be damned). Establish yourself as a go-to resource for others. Develop the skills needed to advance in your career, regardless of whether skills training is being offered, though the goal is that they are. Always play to the strengths you already possess and own who you are and what you have to offer.
Shifting the Paradigm
In general, people crave the feeling of being heard and seen, but to tear down barriers and create long-lasting change, we can’t only rely on women to stand up and stand out. The industry at large, and the companies and men that exist within it, must advocate for women and help create the space for women to be heard.
Angela Capon is vice president of global marketing at EdgeConneX.